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Essex County DWI arrests down in 2009

ELIZABETHTOWN - The numbers of driving-while-intoxicated arrests made in Essex County this year are down significantly according to a report released by the Essex County District Attorney's office.

Essex County District Attorney Julie Garcia addressed the board of supervisor's Public Safety Committee June 8, noting the number of DWI cases county-wide have dropped considerably.

"The report shows we are making some significant progress with regards to preventing DWI's," Garcia said. "For the first five months we only have 100 arrests - last year we had 100 in Ticonderoga alone."

Garcia said if the current pace holds for the rest of 2009, DWI cases in Essex County would total just over 200. By comparison, there were 420 DWI arrests in 2006.

"That's a pretty remarkable difference," she said.

Officials are crediting new prevention efforts in the county. Several towns that were seeing alarmingly high numbers of arrests were subjected to saturation patrols by State Police, Garcia said.

In some communities, like Moriah, citizens have initiated grassroots efforts to prevent drunk driving by offering free rides home from bars during the weekend. Garcia said that's led to a steady decline in DWI cases locally.

So far this year, police have made 12 DWI arrests in Lake Placid, 10 in North Elba, five in Saranac Lake and one apiece in Jay, Wilmington and St. Armand. Garcia said DWI cases have increased in the town of Keene over the past month, with three arrests made through April and four in May.

Garcia also updated the board of supervisors regarding the creation of an Essex County Victim Impact Panel, to be run by the STOP-DWI office.

Most counties statewide have a Victim Impact Panel, and Garcia said they are effective in reforming individuals convicted of DWI.

Convicted drivers hear firsthand accounts of the emotional and physical suffering caused by drunk driving. Garcia compared the setting to drug and alcohol interventions.

The STOP-DWI office also runs the Prevention Team, which is similar to the Victim Impact Panel but targets youth who have committed an Alcoholic Beverage Control, or ABC, violation.

"Rather than just have these kids do community service and pay a fine every time they get issued the ticket, we would really like to add the education component to that with the hope that they start to understand why we don't want them drinking," Garcia said.

The prevention programs are funded using forfeiture money.

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